Compiled by x344543 - February 8, 2016
The following news items are culled from various other IWW internet news portals:
- Solidarity with PSU graduate student workers! - By DJAcidRick, Portland IWW, February 2, 2016
- Wobchat #1 - By Admin, New Syndicalist, January 31, 2016
- IWW’s & friends help distribute hundreds of flyers for MISU - 6eoff, Boston IWW, January 31, 2016
- Wobs Provide Court Support for I93 Blockaders - 6eoff, Boston IWW, January 31, 2016
- Primero Chaca - Monica Kostas, Recomposition, January 28, 2016
Compiled by x344543 - February 8, 2016
The following news items may be of interest to revolutionary industrial workers:
- In Egypt, a second life for independent trade unions - By Giulio Regeni, Red Pepper, February 7, 2016
- Greece: Strike Against Pension Cuts Ends with Molotov’s and Teargas - By Jennifer Baker, Revolution News, February 4, 2016; [related] Biggest general strike in years defies Syriza's pension cuts in Greece - By Panos Garganas, Socialist Worker (UK), February 4, 2016
- What caused the wildcat on the docks? - By Eugene Dardenne, Socialist Worker, February 3, 2016
- Uber Drivers in New York City Protest Fare Cuts - By Marc Santora and John Surico, New York Times, February 1, 2016
- Top SEIU-UHW Staffer, Leon Chow, Departs amidst Reported Connections to Man Convicted of 162 Criminal Counts - By admin, Stern Burger with Fries, January 29, 2016
- More Than 1,000 Longshoremen Walk Off The Job At Area Ports - By Staff, CBS New York, January 29, 2016
- Seattle Uber Drivers Win Right to Bargain - By Sonia Singh, Labor Notes, January 28, 2016
- Bikeshare Union Has Wheels - By Joe Demanuelle-Hall and Nicholas Bedell, Labor Notes, January 27, 2016
- Workers occupy ILVA steel plant in Genoa - By admin, Struggles in Italy, January 26, 2016
- Upheaval In The Factories Of Juarez - By Alana Semuels, The Atlantic, January 21, 2016
- Labor Goes South - By Justin Miller, American Prospect, January 2016
By Ron Kaminkow - January 25, 2016
On November 19th, 1915 a poor Swedish immigrant was executed by firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah. And while his legal assassination was protested worldwide and his name was briefly a household word 100 years ago, today most people have never heard the name of this migrant worker, hobo, union organizer, song writer, satirist and agitator. But throughout the course of 2015 – 100 years after his execution – dozens of concerts, plays, sing alongs and other gatherings were conducted across the United Sates in remembrance of this man “who never died” – Joe Hill.
The Joe Hill Road Show 100 Tour was an ambitious effort to bring the words, music and ideas of Joe Hill to the people. In some three dozen performances around the country – starting in Chicago on May 1 (International Workers’ Day) and ending in Salt Lake City the day after his execution – crowds were treated to renditions of Joe’s songs as performed by a series of different musicians. While some of the crowds were small and others large, all shows on the tour were spirited events with lots of audience participation, enthusiasm, and laughter, all infused with the spirit of labor solidarity.
Performers at the various shows included a number of professional travelling musicians, others regionally based, as well as local talent, invited up on stage to join in the fun. Some of the musicians included: Anne Feeney, Mark Ross, Bucky Halker, George Mann, J.P. Wright, Marc Revenson (Lil’ Rev), Tim Gorelanton, Patrick Dodd, David Rovics, Duncan Phillips, Otis Gibbs, Charlie King, Greg Artzner & Terry Leonino of “Magpie,” Jan Hammarlund, and Chris Chandler. Joining them in at least three cities, the Labor Chorus in each added another dimension, a unique element to these shows, one that encouraged group singing. They performed in union halls, taverns, community centers, concert halls, churches, and even in an old wooden boxcar by the railroad tracks in Northern California. Shows took place in 18 states in the following towns and cities: Chicago and Batavia, IL; Madison, Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Oshkosh and Green Bay, WI; St. Paul, MN; Indianapolis, IN; Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD; Philadelphia, PA; Ithaca, NY; Schenectady, and New York, NY; Barre, VT; Springfield and Cambridge, MA; Louisville and Lexington, KY; Nashville and Knoxville, TN; Atlanta, GA; San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Nevada City and Weed, CA; Reno, NV; Phoenix, Eugene and Portland, OR; Bellingham, WA and Salt Lake City, UT. Additional commemorative events not sponsored by the Joe Hill 100 group were held in numerous other locales including Denver, CO and Oakland, CA.
So why all the fuss over an itinerant immigrant, shot to death 100 years ago? If Joe had been a loner, just another one of millions of isolated and destitute workingmen around the turn of the 20th century, he would have certainly died in obscurity. But Joe Hill (born Joel Emmanuel Haaglund), quickly assimilated to his new environment in the US, refused to be treated unfairly, joined the union that at that time was organizing unskilled transient workers (the Industrial Workers of the World) and found his voice. And what a voice that turned out to be! Joe composed hundreds of songs, never asked a penny for his services, and donated all of his works – songs, poems, cartoons – to the workers of the world to use as they saw fit to fight the class struggle. Workers from “San Diego up to Maine in every mine and mill” were soon singing Joe’s songs at work, on the picket line, on the street corners, on the soap box and in the jails. Yes, wherever workers would “strike and organize” that would be where you would hear the songs of Joe Hill.
By 6eoff - Boston IWW, January 25, 2016
Pictured are MISU’s John P (recently reinstated), Evan and John M, as well as Genevieve, Geoff, Max and Jon from the Boston IWW.
IWW members returned to aid our friends and fellow workers in the Museum Independent Security Union on 1/23/16. Despite freezing temperatures, our hearts were warmed by a message from John M of MISU, who conveyed his belief that IWW support was “instrumental” in getting unfairly-fired MISU member John P re-hired with no discipline and with back pay. John P was fired by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts merely for fulfilling his responsibilities as a parent. The outcry that followed (which Boston wobs are proud have helped with) compelled the museum to take John back. The MFA has been forcing working parents out of their jobs and taking a hard line in contract negotiations with MISU, and the battle is not over yet. Please join the Boston IWW and MISU for pickets at the Museum of Fine Arts, Saturdays from 12-2 pm.
Compiled by x344543 - January 26, 2016
The following news items may be of interest to revolutionary industrial workers:
- Chicago Window Workers Who Occupied Their Factory in 2008 Win New Bankruptcy Payout - By Kari Lydersen, In These Times, January 25, 2016
- As Attacks on Unions Continue, Bringing Back the Strike May Be Our Only Hope - By Shaun Richman, Truthout, January 22, 2016
- Source: SEIU-UHW's Dave Regan is on His Way Out - By Admin, Stern Burger With Fries, January 22, 2016
- To Fight Back Against Companies Like Uber, Workers Need Organizing—Not Technocratic Fixes - By Jonathan Rosenblum, In These Times, January 19, 2016
- Labor's fight-or-die moment - By Sherry Wolf, Socialist Worker, January 19, 2016
- Is an Injury to One an Injury to All? Some Critical Thoughts on Trade-Union Internationalism Today - By Katy Fox-Hodess, Salvage, January 18, 2016
- The (End) Work Zone: Tales of Spontaneous Rebellion in the Workplace – Part III - By Staff, Ideas and Action, January 16, 2016
By John Hollingsworth - Ottawa-Outaouais IWW, January 23, 2016
OTTAWA—The Industrial Workers of the World are picketing Wine Rack to defend a member unfairly fired on September 6, 2015.
Our member engaged in his legally-protected right to organize and was publicly engaged in a card-signing campaign by another union in efforts to certify a bargaining unit for Wine Rack locations in Ottawa, Ontario.
Wine Rack is owned by parent company Constellation Brands, a US-based multinational corporation with two billion dollars of profit in 2013. Front-line employees of Wine Rack are paid minimum wage and given only conditional yearly increases lower than the rate of inflation, compounding the difficulties posed by a part-time and unpredictable schedule for workers.
According to the Labour Relations Act, all workers have the right to form, select, and administer a union without interference from the employer. In response to our member’s organizing efforts, Wine Rack manufactured a spurious reason to terminate his employment without following their established disciplinary processes.
The IWW will continue to picket Wine Rack to demand fair treatment for our member until our demand for our member’s reinstatement on the job with back pay is met. All employees deserve to be able to organize without reprisal.
The IWW is calling on Ottawans to not cross our picket line and to respect a boycott of Wine Rack locations until management meets with our union to negotiate.
This is yet another instance of arbitrary firings and disrespect for the Labour Relations Act happening here in Ottawa. Workers can win these fights when they unite and take action. The IWW is a member-run union for all workers and is dedicated to organizing on the job.
By FW W.H. Glazer - Twin Cities IWW, January 20, 2016Introduction
Every four years, Americans are subjected to a painfully long election cycle. It is January of a presidential election year, and that means that we can anticipate another ten months of mainstream media coverage that manages to simultaneously overwhelm us with its volume and leave us with no novel or useful information (did you know, for example, that Dr. Ben Carson was a rageful and violent nerd growing up in Detroit? Or that Donald Trump is a shameless blowhard whose racist, classist, and sexist rhetoric appeals to a sizeable group of racists, classists, and sexists?). My boss loves to play CNN in the office as background noise, but my proximity to the television means that I know a lot more about Martin O’Malley and Carly Fiorina than I ever needed to.
Inherent in the decision to enact non-stop coverage is an assumption that all of this election stuff really matters, that who you support and ultimately vote for can have a tangible effect on the lives of millions of people. We are taught from a young age that our right to vote is a tremendously precious one, and further that failure to participate in the election process is a failure of civic duty. We are Americans, god dammit, and it is our responsibility to uphold justice and liberty and democracy through our voting process.
From a pragmatic standpoint, there is actually some truth to this idea. It is, from a purely practical point of view, smart to vote for the lesser of two evils. Hillary Clinton is less likely to impose anti-Muslim immigration reforms than is Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders is considerably less scary and objectionable than are the cackling hyenas who comprise the Republican field.
In the IWW, though, we can’t only think in terms of pragmatism and practicality. We are a revolutionary anti-capitalist union, and it can be convincingly argued that active participation in electoral politics is not only counterproductive for our organizational goals, but counter-revolutionary. After all, no major party candidate will ever advocate for the dissolution of our capitalist economy and the establishment of a worker run society. Voting third party in a presidential race may be more morally justifiable, but barring tremendous social and political upheaval, a third party candidate will never take the White House.
By the Life Long Wobbly - January 18, 2016The Chicago Teachers Step Up – What does it mean?
The decision of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to participate in the Black Friday protests against police brutality is an important step forward, advancing both the struggle against the Chicago police department, and allowing the CTU to flex its muscles before the end of its contract. Chicago Teachers voted overwhelmingly to support a strike in their recent strike authorization vote, and if they can win another strike as they did in 2012, it would be an incredibly important victory for the working class around the country. It would show that education workers can fight and win, especially if they have united with the broader working class around issues such as institutional racism.
The simmering rage against Chicago’s blatantly racist, terrorist, secret prison-operating police department provides an important backdrop. US anti-labor law illegitimately limits what workers can strike over; if the teachers go on strike, and demand the removal of police from school campuses, or defunding of the police force, that would make their strike “illegal” in the eyes of the state. Chicago teachers have an important choice. Even if the teachers go on strike and don’t say a word about the police, the CPD is intimately tied to Rahm Emanuel’s austerity regime, and a teachers’ strike could strengthen and build on the movement against police brutality and terror. However, if the teachers do explicitly include anti-police demands in their strike, and stick by them even when threatened with injunction, they could really inspire the rest of the working class in Chicago to mobilize and support them. A victory in that case would also show that workers can successfully take on the system of anti-labor laws in this country, particularly those which declare certain kinds of strikes “illegal”.
Could teachers and other education workers strike to remove police from schools? Nothing could stop them from putting this into their demands. If a teachers union prioritized “cops off campus”, and waged a strike on the level of Chicago in 2012 or Seattle earlier this year, this would be a massive step forward. This would be particularly powerful to the degree that it spread beyond the teachers to include other education workers. Of course, any industrial action for “cops off campus” would meet bitter resistance from the city administration, at the same time that the national media, the Democratic Party, and – most importantly – the national unions would stop at nothing to sabotage this action, and force or cajole the workers into moderating their demands.
This is why militant education workers would have to prepare for this struggle, beginning by consciously identifying with the victims of police brutality, against the police rather than with them. An initiative to strike for “cops off campus” might need years before education workers actually have the strength and organization to pull it off – but the situation in the US over the last several years has also been very fluid, and things could develop much quicker than we might expect.
By Coeur de Bord - The Organizer, January 17, 2016
Eleven months ago, the Package Handler’s Organizing Committee (PHOC) voted to begin a campaign demanding the starting wage at the three UPS hubs in the Twin Cities be raised to $15/hour (from the current $10), and a corresponding $5/hour raise for all hub employees. We had our sights set on building power towards some form of disruptive action during 2015’s Peak Season. Now that Peak has arrived, I would like to share some of my feelings on the progression, evolution, and execution of this campaign, as well as some ways it has influenced our organizing in general at UPS in Minneapolis.
I feel this document is useful as part of a future retrospective assessment of the Boxmart campaign and the PHOC committee itself. However, I hope it can also serve as a useful reference for other IWW organizing committees thinking about taking on labor-intensive, medium- to long-term campaigns such as this. Whether or not such a campaign would have a positive impact on your organizing is a decision that only your committee can make, but I hope that by offering my perspectives other Wobblies will be able to make a more informed decision.The motion (original language):
What: $5 hourly raise across the board, which would bring starting wage up to $15. Also, end petty wage theft and other shop floor issues where possible.
When: Major direct action during peak season 2015 aimed at entire Twin Cities operation. Smaller DAs before them, at moments to be determined. Campaign to start within two months (petitions coming out along with Screw ups at MPLS, Eagan, Maple Grove and airport).
Who: Petition to be drafted by core committee, Mass meeting to be run by ——, other tasks delegated to —, —- and — wherever possible to gather support from rest of branch. New shop floor contacts will be expected to further trenchwork on shop floor, canvass for issues to be addressed by escalating Direct Actions, and inoculation. OTC to arrange an OT soon after mass meeting for new contacts. Core committee (eg —–) to fill in gaps where people cannot attend a full OT.
Where: Meetings at TC IWW office, actions in MPLS, Eagan, Maple Grove and airport. Actions to focus on Minnesota operation unless tempting opportunities arise.
- Use petition to gather contacts for mass meeting. Create Facebook, etc contact points.
- Use mass meeting to identify people willing and able to be organizers (and other roles) and set broad outlines of effort, changing as necessary to reflect workers’ concerns.
- Follow up with potential organizers, get to OT where possible and patch with one-on-ones where not. Create a campaign committee to broaden work, bring in smaller escalatable issues (eg petty wage theft, harassment etc), grow committee itself.
- Do direct actions on smaller issues, symbolic stuff where appropriate. Include off-shop-floor issues eg prison slave labour ala hands up don’t ship.
- Follow up on retaliation for the above.
- Bring smaller issues back in, build excitement and commitment and hold mass meetings in the months leading up to peak to organize peak action.
- Mess everything up during peak.
- Publicize concessions and workers’ eye view analysis of fight, follow up on retaliations.
- Set further goals.
By Phineas Gage - Recomposition, January 7, 2016
Ike and I walked into Sam’s office at exactly ten in the morning. Not a minute before or after. We never talked to management, especially the Labour Relations guys, with less than a pair present. Sam ran the video on his computer screen for us to look at. It was a clip of a woman walking at night towards a door. She looks over her shoulder and a shadow glides towards her, she lunges for the door and struggles to open it with the key card. Then a leg that ends with a bicycle pedal and two wheels drifts into plain view and off camera. She opens the glass door and then slams the door behind her and leans on it, panting. The clip then looped and played over again.
“So, in the investigation, you told the sister that you think the union put her up to this?” I asked.
I was starting to feel a keen rage swelling up inside of me but I grabbed the arms of the chair tightly and tried to keep my cool.
Sam’s face was like cold stone.
“It’s too convenient. You guys start complaining about the health and safety at the Transportation yard and all of a sudden someone almost gets ‘attacked’ in the yard?” He was doing the scare quotes with his fingers.
The video clip completed another loop.
I could feel my anger at the situation starting to effect my judgement. He was probably egging me on.
“I don’t think this is staged Sam. I mean, really, all things being equal, what is more likely: a confrontation with someone at night outside a downtown workstation or an elaborate conspiracy to put a show on for the cameras?” I was smiling and trying to insert some humour into the situation.
The clip completed another loop.
I could feel a light stinging sensation on the back of my thighs as soon as Sam started to talk again. The hairs on my arms were starting to stand on end.
“What are you laughing at? This isn’t funny. See, this is his problem, Ike, he doesn’t take this stuff seriously.” Sam was dripping with condescension. That and cologne.
I shot out of my chair, like a bullet, and leaned over his desk stuffing my index finger into the space in front of his chest. I could see Ike’s eyes go wide as my one arm stretched out towards him, my index finger stopping just shy of his chest. ‘Never, ever, touch them, Phineas, especially when angry’, I told myself.
“You’re fucking lucky all I’m doing is laughing, you dickhead. A woman almost got assaulted in your parking lot and your first response is to spin an insane conspiracy theory about performance art in front of surveillance cameras? What kind of piece of shit sociopath does that?”
I regained composure and looked at Ike.
Ike nodded and said, “I think that is about as of thorough an exploration of the issues we are going to get today,” He gently grabbed my arm and we walked out.
By anonymous - New Syndicalist, December 24, 2015
Like many IWW members in the UK I work in the public sector. Traditionally this has been an area of high trade union density particularly in teaching, the civil service and health. It is also one of the last bastions of collective bargaining power for the trade union movement. Although as the recent record of capitulation to austerity policies, cuts in pay and cuts in social services shows trade union density rarely equals trade union militancy.
“Dual carding” – membership in a craft union alongside the IWW – is a relatively underdeveloped strategy for the UK. In spite of a reputation for “minority unionism” Wobblies have historically played animating roles in trade unions aside their commitment to building a combative and revolutionary alternative to craft union structures. The IWW, after all, was the product of an amalgamation of the most militant and advanced expressions of the trade union movement of the time.
In spite of this it would also be simplistic to say that membership in the IWW and activity in a broader trade union is fully harmonious. The IWW does ultimately exist as a criticism of the limitations of craft unionism and its reformist methods. Many leftists labour under the illusion that trade unions can be captured and turned towards revolutionary aims. In practice this has often meant running left leadership slates for union elections. A practice that is neither appealing to Wobblies nor has proved particularly successful in terms of shifting the actual activity of trade unions. An equally common approach is to stoke rank-and-file militancy at the branch level, either through the building of left caucuses or networks of militant reps. This seems like a more natural approach for a Wobbly to take promoting those qualities and methods that we see as valuable in syndicalist organising – militancy, activism from the roots, bottom-up over top-down etc.
Yet this approach also has its limitations. The structure and organisation of the trade unions can undercut struggles even at the rank-and-file level. Just like any experienced organiser should prepare strategies for dealing with a difficult and divisive boss, a dual-carder needs to anticipate and prepare for the possibility that trade union bureaucracies will undermine the work of militant organisers and remove them from a position of influence with the membership if they see them as troublesome or a threat. Our aims should also go beyond simply organising more militant and combative trade unions. We need to understand how our activities as trade unionists help to sow the seeds of workers’ control in our industries in addition to building links with those in unorganised sectors and supporting our fellow workers growing IWW campaigns.
I recently had the opportunity to act as a representative for my local NUT (National Union of Teachers) branch, below are a number of observations developed from experimenting with this new role. My aim is that these offer a contribution to some of the issues that are raised above as part of a broader debate on dual-carding in the union:1. Debunking the myth of the “militant union rep” – building a militant membership
It is a widespread view within trade union branches that it’s reps who should do most of the leg-work. This perception is reinforced by the fact that the majority of union resources, communication and, most importantly, meetings with management happen exclusively through the rep. The result is that workmates will talk more or less favourably about “bolshie reps” who are capable/incapable of standing up to management on their behalf. This is a bottle-neck in collective strength that a boss can easily exploit to demobilise, distract or diffuse the activity of the union. Good reps need to send the message out that it’s the membership that calls the shots and not them. A step towards building a new union culture on this basis is bringing workmates into these otherwise exclusive communication channels. Dual-carders should share rep guides and union resources, carefully minute meetings with management, show how issues raised have been actioned and insist that problems are raised collectively through regular branch meetings and not via private communication with the rep. Even in recognised workplaces workers need to be educated on the idea that the union is only as strong as its membership and a poorly organised union can easily fall into a forum of consultation with management or even be de-recognised.2. The branch is not a social space – so make one.
Trade union branches are generally very poorly organised. This does create opportunities for dual-carders in terms of introducing more democratic and inclusive processes without much institutional resistance. But in the absence of such clear structures meetings can often just be collective moaning sessions that can be tiring and demobilising for those involved. It is, of course, important for people to blow off steam especially in stressful professions but this shouldn’t come at the expense of collective action. So why not create alternative spaces to do that? In the North we have been experimenting with this kind of model for young professionals in teaching. Our “Educators Underground” group meets once a month with young education professionals across the city. We talk about stresses and emotional challenges we have had at work, discuss alternative educational theories and provide advice and support to each other going back to our union branches. This helps to fill gaps in the current trade union structure as well as making us feel like we are well supported by our fellow workers in the same sector.3. Act collaboratively, reproduce yourself.
Any good organiser should aim to reproduce themselves and this is as true of a dual-carder as it is an organiser within an IWW campaign. By sheer coincidence when I stood for position of branch union rep another workmate also expressed interest in the role. Rather than run a competitive election I suggested that we could share the job. This turned out to be a beneficial move for both of us. I was grateful for the help and support my co-rep could offer in getting to grips with the new role. Having another perspective on the running of the branch was also really valuable. I was able to support them in areas where they were less experienced such as meeting with the boss for the first time. And together we were able to bring in more robust changes to how branch meetings were run by virtue of the extra pair of hands and added energy. We also had the bonus benefit of strength of numbers in our last meeting with management (myself, my co-rep and the outgoing rep outnumbering the head 3-1)! I’m now convinced that this practice should be pushed in all areas where it is practical. It shares out valuable skills, makes sure that there are others to step up when you are unable to fully take on union responsibilities and further debunks the myth that the rep is the linchpin of the branch.4. Act like OBU, even if you aren’t one.
Most public sector workplaces will have multiple recognition deals with different sections of the workforce. Legal action across these divides is difficult (that’s not to say that other forms of solidarity aren’t both practical and desirable) but there is nothing stopping you acting as a single unit in terms of how you organise within that work site. Inviting reps from other trade unions on site to your branch meetings is a good first step towards building dialogue between different sections of the workforce. Individuals or groups from unorganised sections can likewise be sought out and invited, for example, agency or temporary staff. Ideally at a more advanced stage this could evolve into a forum for discussion and decision-making across the work site and present a natural springboard for cross-site solidarity and industrial action.
Within this it is similarly important to maintain a parallel structure of social contacts and connections with workmates that exist outside the official trade union role. If you get into a position where you need to call unofficial or unsanctioned industrial action the trade union will do everything in its power to halt it. It’s important in this case to have a working knowledge of the social map of your workplace to ensure success irrespective of the existence of the trade union labels. If you have approached the role with the idea of organising the worker as well as the branch you should be able to call on the former when the latter comes under attack. In effect falling back on the strength of the red card when the blue/green/grey/yellow/white one has failed you.
By Keno Evol - Twin Cities IWW, December 22, 2015
Still there is magic. Throughout the days I’ve spent at the 4th precinct, on that sacred, now spiritual road of Plymouth Avenue, I have seen what I’ve imagined in my mind’s eye for quite some time – a community blockade of resistance. I say sacred intentionally. Throughout black history the shedding of black blood has made things sacred. Consider the way we view voting. Often the argument is that it’s necessary to vote, because there is blood on these ballots. The people who came before us suffered so we can show up to the booth. This is true, though I think the idea distorts and manipulates people’s commitment to figuring out their own consciousness and defining for themselves what activism really is. It creates a sort of guilt complex around the trauma of our elders. I’m thinking of A letter to Maria when June Jordan writes, “So voting, or the right to vote, was a goal, yes, but not an overriding objective, nor was it a strategy, nor was it a tactic. The overriding objective was freedom from American apartheid.”
I also say spirituality intentionally, though not in terms of organized religion. But in terms of organizing around a common suffering, an approach which lends itself to a certain otherworldliness taking place – in this case within North Minneapolis.
I would go as far as to say the entire nation is in a moment of magic. I say magic within two categories of the word. For white Americans, I mean it in the most exhaustingly literal of terms. A Black boy vanishes and white America has a moment of immediate awe! They can’t believe it! Where did the black boy go? The cop, the magician in this ritual, knows what a person in his trade would know about fooling the audience. Tragically unsurprised, however, black people living in this country know where every mirror, every smoke canister and every trap door is placed. This is what I mean by magic centered in white America.
This holiday season, unions are again calling on one of the world’s largest jewellery retailers to clean up its supplier of diamonds. They are urging Signet to demand that multinational mining and metals giant Rio Tinto respect workers’ rights, indigenous peoples and the environment.
With global sales of US$6 billion annually, Signet’s Kay, Jared and Zales are found across the US, Peoples and Mappins stores are throughout Canada, and H. Samuel and Ernest Jones shops are visible on UK high streets.
The unions are calling on Signet to abide by its own Responsible Sourcing Policy. This policy declares the company “committed to the responsible sourcing of our products and the respect of human rights, and we expect the same from our suppliers around the world.”
President McEllrath assigned us to attend the 2015 Single-Payer Strategy Conference in Chicago, IL on October 30 – November 1, 2015.
The conference was a collaborative effort involving Labor Campaign for Single Payer (LCSP), Healthcare- NOW and Single Payer States. The Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) were also holding a conference and participated in portions of our conference. Many unions and state single payer organizations were represented at the conference with the nurses unions having the most representatives. There was approximately 400 people in attendance.
The first day included a well participated rally at the offices of Blue Cross. The keynote speaker was Tom Conway of United Steel Workers (USW) who spoke about the challenges faced by workers of addressing healthcare at the bargaining table.
Day two started with a speech by Representative Jim McDermott from Washington State, who has been a longtime single payer advocate. His latest strategy is to move HR3241, a state-based bill that would give waivers to states to move away from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and pool the money to start a single payer system in their states. There was debate throughout the conference when or if national and other state efforts should break away from their local campaigns to support another state that is on the verge of succeeding to secure a single payer system.
The afternoon included a menu of workshops including, “Winning Support from the Business Community,” “The Cadillac Tax & Attacks on Workers Healthcare” and “Healthcare is a Human Right Model.”
The ILWU took an early position against the ACA’s excise tax and it was good to see other unions and groups finally coming around to this position. Some people expressed concern that if the excise tax were to be amended or repealed, that the single payer movement could lose momentum. One sister chastised the moderator for using the employer’s words when addressing the excise tax—calling it the “Cadillac tax.” She is right. This term unfairly paints comprehensive health insurance coverage that ILWU members have fought for as “luxuries” instead of as a right that all Americans should have.
The most interesting workshop was the “Winning Support from the Business Community”. The presentation was based on a short film that was recently produced by a business owner from LeHigh, Pennsylvania called “Fix It”. The film addresses why business should support a single payer system. (The film can be seen at: http://fixithealthcare.com) Even with the passion and motivation of the attendees at the conference we will only be able to move single payer forward when the business community sees the financial advantage of a universal health care system. The day concluded with a fund raiser and I was able to present the $1,500 check from the Coast Longshore Division to the LCSP and Brother Austin presented a check from the Pacific Coast Pensioners Association. Both contributions were very much appreciated.
The final day comprised of groups discussing five questions and submitting ideas to guide future actions by the sponsoring groups. There were some at the conference who concluded that the ACA had a couple of good changes, but that it was still a discriminatory system—it does not cover undocumented residents, for example. In addition, the ACA was largely written by drug and insurance companies and for-profit hospitals in order to maximize their profits at the expense of public health.
Many people at the conference felt that we should stop making excuses for the ACA, and instead work to make single payer a reality. The conference was informative and much larger than the previous Labor Campaign for Single Payer conferences. The movement seems to be gaining some strength even with the recent setbacks in Vermont and New York.
In order to win single payer, some people felt that the best strategy is to win it state by state. That theory suggests that once the first state goes, it will be a domino effect thereafter. Others, including a number of doctors belonging to Physicians for a National Health Program, feel that a national approach such as House Resolution 676 (HR 676) “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All” that was endorsed by the ILWU should be our overall objective.
The LCSP had a business meeting at the end of the conference and Rich Austin Sr. was voted to the Steering Committee where he will be an invaluable resource.
Future conferences should continue to be attended by the ILWU and we should take the opportunity to send different members each time to represent and experience the conferences so they can bring it back to their members.